Ashgabat: Hanoi FC continued their fine run in the 2019 AFC Cup after a hard-fought 2-2 draw away at Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr on Tuesday secured a 5-4 aggregate win and a place in the Inter-Zone Final.
The Vietnamese team had put in a superb first-leg performance yet Altyn Asyr’s two goals in Hanoi left the Southeast Asian side in a perilous position ahead of their visit to Ashgabat, where the hosts have not lost an AFC Cup game since May 2016.
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Early Goals Settle Nerves
With a low-scoring win enough to see Altyn Asyr into a second successive Inter-Zone Final, Hanoi would have been well aware of the importance of finding the net at Kopetdag Stadium. And the timing of both their goals could not have been better.
After an even first 15 minutes in which the hosts had tried their luck from distance several times, it was the visitors who struck when Nguyen Van Quyet was the beneficiary of the Altyn Asyr backline’s inability to clear Ngan Van Dai’s delivery from the right.
The goal gave the ASEAN Zonal champions breathing space as Altyn Asyr now needed to push for two goals while, at the same time, the home side knew a second Hanoi goal would cancel out the potential away goals advantage they held.
It wasn’t until late in the half that Hanoi faced any real danger, with Murat Yakshiev going close before Serdar Geldiyev’s penalty saw the sides go in level. But, just as he did in the first half, Van Quyet scored early after the restart to once again take the sting out of the hosts.
Van Cong Deserving Of Praise
While the balance of play across the 90 minutes was fairly even, there is little doubt who the busier goalkeeper was on the night.
Such games can be settled by fine margins and, just minutes before Geldiyev scored his first of two penalties, Nguyen Van Cong pulled off a fine reflex save to deny Yashiyev after the forward had wriggled free from the Hanoi defence.
Then, almost immediately after Altyn Asyr’s second spot-kick, and with less than 10 minutes to play, Van Cong produced a flying save to deny Mihail Titov’s goalbound effort from the edge of the area with one of the defining moments of the match.
An Altyn Asyr goal then would have handed them the momentum ahead of extra-time, but Van Cong’s save – his fifth of the match – was the final telling moment of a thrilling two-legged contest. So often praised for their excellent attack, Hanoi’s last line of defence was certainly due some of his own on Tuesday.
Van Quyet Steps To The Fore Again
When Hanoi scored a tournament-leading 23 goals in topping Group F, their captain, forward Nguyen Van Quyet, was on the scoresheet just once, although injury cut short his group stage appearances at the midway stage.
Ahead of the knockout rounds, much of the hype centred around the creative midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai and star striker Pape Omar Faye, but Van Quyet has returned to the fold to show he is the man for the big occasion.
He scored the decisive goal against Ceres Negros in the ASEAN Zonal semi-final and the only goal of the game away at Becamex Binh Duong in the ASEAN Zonal Final. The 28-year-old then came off the bench to hold his nerve from the spot and secure the 3-2 first-leg win over Altyn Asyr.
Two more goals again on Tuesday means Van Quyet has scored a treble in just over 120 minutes of action against the Turkmens, who must be sick of the sight of the number 10. Hanoi are now two games away from a first-ever AFC Cup final, and their skipper seems in the mood to take them there.
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